By Jacob G. Hornberger
President Trump has reminded us of how the U.S. government destroyed the liberty of the American people in the name of fighting tyranny abroad. Exercising the same dictatorial method that his predecessors have employed — executive decrees — he has made it illegal again for most Americans to travel to Cuba and spend money there.
Trump’s justification? The communist regime in Cuba is tyrannical and engages in human-rights abuses.
Think about that for a moment: A foreign regime is tyrannical and so what does a U.S. president do? Through a decree-law, he imposes his own tyranny on his own citizenry by punishing Americans who travel to Cuba or do business there.
Let’s not forget, after all, that the U.S. embargo on Cuba is, first and foremost, an attack on the freedom of the American people. That’s the way it has been since the very beginning of the embargo more than 50 years ago. If an American traveled to Cuba and spent money there, he didn’t need to fear the communists. He needed to fear federal investigators, prosecutors, and judges, who would have him indicted, prosecuted, convicted, and sent to federal jail for a long time.
Who’s the tyrant here?
After all, freedom of travel has always been considered one of the most fundamental natural, God-given rights of man. And as we libertarians have long held, so is economic liberty — the natural, God-given right of people to dispose of their own money any way they want.
Natural, God-given rights are rights with which no government — not even the U.S. government — can legitimately infringe upon. Such rights preexist government. It is the solemn duty of government to protect such rights, not destroy them. That’s the central message expressed in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, whose anniversary Americans will be celebrating on the Fourth of July.
But destroy is precisely what President Trump and the U.S. embargo do to the liberty of the American people. In name of fighting communism in Cuba, they do precisely what the communist regime in Cuba does — they destroy the freedom of their own citizenry.
That was the way it was throughout the Cold War. After World War II, U.S. officials told Americans that they now faced a more dangerous enemy than Nazi Germany. This new official enemy, they said, was communism and the communist Soviet Union.
Never mind, of course that they had just finished partnering with, befriending, and supporting the Soviet Union for some four years of World War II. That didn’t matter, U.S. officials said, because the Reds were supposedly now hell-bent on coming to get us through a worldwide communist conspiracy supposedly based in Russia.
That’s how we ended up with the NSA, an agency whose mission of surveillance over the American people is no different in principle from that of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany and the KGB in the Soviet Union.
It’s how we ended up with a government that wields the power to torture people brutally, the same power of torture wielded by the Nazis and the communists in the Soviet Union, Red China, Vietnam, North Korea, and elsewhere.
It’s how we ended up with a government that wields the power to detain people indefinitely in military dungeons, secret prison centers, and concentration camps, just like in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Red China, and elsewhere.
It’s how we ended up living under a regime that wields the same power of assassination that was wielded by the Nazis and every communist regime in the world.
It’s how we ended up living under a regime in which the legislative and judicial branches are scared to death to interfere with anything the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA do in the name of “national security.”
No matter how much Americans have convinced themselves that they are still a free peope, there is no way to reconcile freedom with such totalitarian powers. Such powers destroyed freedom, not only in Germany, Russia, China, North Korea, and North Vietnam, but also right here in the United States.
All because the commies (and, later, the terrorists, and, later, the Muslims, or ISIS, or drug dealers, or whoever) were supposedly coming to get us. That’s how Americans lost their freedom at the hands of their own government. The government convinced them that if they didn’t trade away their liberty for the aura of security, they would end up under the control and dominion of the Reds or others.
That’s the major way that people throughout history have lost their liberty. Frightened by crises or threats, most of which were caused by their own governments, people willingly surrendered their liberty in the hopes of being kept safe and secure from the crises or the threats.
People who have made that trade, however, have always found that it was a fool’s bargain, one in which they found themselves neither free nor secure. Instead, they have always found themselves in the position of compliant, obedient, submissive, and deferential serfs whose lives and livelihoods depend on the beneficence and largess of their rulers.
Why should every American be angry, indignant, and outraged over President Trump’s actions on Cuba and, for that matter, the entire U.S. embargo against Cuba?
Because every American should be placing the highest value on his own liberty. His mindset should be that same as the mindset of those men who signed the Declaration of Independence against their own government, whose officials were doing the same types of things against their citizens that Trump is doing against his citizens.
The mindset of every American toward President Trump this Fourth of July — and, for that matter, every other day of the year — should be: No matter how much tyranny or oppression there is in Cuba or anywhere else, you are not going to take away my freedom here at home. I have the right to travel anywhere I want and spend my money any way I want. These are rights endowed in me by nature and nature’s God. And neither you nor any other federal official is going to destroy my freedom, not even in the name of fighting tyranny abroad.
This article was originally published at The Future of Freedom Foundation.